Section: Walking
Ankle Flexibility Trumps Working Harder
"My friends have noticed I'm walking better." Miriam mentioned this to me one week after her introduction to the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education. That first session she had learned that, instead of tightening through her "weak" ankles, she could let her ankles relax so her heels could peel off the ground; and that, instead of gripping her toes, she could let her heel-peel relax and lengthen her toes. That 91 year old said, "This is what I've been waiting for my whole life."

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Walking is with the Whole Body
From the first time Robert walked into my office, his walking was quite distinctive. His mother had made the initial appointment as a birthday present for Robert--for his leg pain. Robert, who was 42, was using a four-pronged cane to aid him in his walk. Even with the use of a cane, each time he lifted his left leg to take a step, it seemed both difficult and precarious. It turned out that Robert had been born with Cerebral Palsy, and though he had led an active life, after a couple of falls over the last five years, he had started to use a cane when walking, and now couldn't walk without it.

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The Professor
In March 1999, this 72-year-old Brandeis University educator and Vipassana meditator limped into Wellspace, the integrative center where I practice the Feldenkrais Method, with a cane, a grimace of anguish and a "Beginner Mind." His presenting malady was similar to a diagnosis of plantar fasciatis, compounded by fallen arches; his pain was excruciating. He could not weight-bear on the ball of his left foot, instead clunking onto his poor heel with each step.

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Walking the Earth
Have you ever walked outdoors at dawn and sensed the earth turn on its axis towards the sun? Try it sometime and see what happens. As we hurry to and fro, it's so easy to take our steps for granted. But lose that carefree rhythm, and each step becomes precious. Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says we don't have to walk in space or on water to experience a miracle... walking on the green Earth is a miracle.

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Fun Walks
Here is an exploration of walking that is an enjoyable way to turn your walking into an easy, efficient, full body activity. Do this somewhere where you won't be self-conscious, or take a child to share the fun! Let yourself giggle and have some childish delight as you do this. Although we will be exaggerating our movements, make sure that everything feels good and that you don't exaggerate any movement to the point of discomfort.

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Natural Power from Within
Do you have a powerful walk? Pause for a moment while you ponder this question. Notice inside. Does a certain feeling or 'image' arise inside of you as you imagine the inner sensation of your walk? Can you sense if you have to do something inside in order to feel yourself walking powerfully? Do you have a vision of how a powerful walk has to look?
How can you attend to walk forward with strength? Do you sense effort or ease in your walk?

Walking is a complex human activity. We can't make ourselves feel a more powerful walk by holding a fixed belief of how we 'should' be. We also can't create a powerful walk through only strengthening a muscle or group of muscles.

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A Case in Persistence and Learning
Jan is one of those people who just doesn't take no for an answer, even when it comes from a health care provider. Her persistence and assertiveness have served her well, particularly given the added challenges she's faced all of her life. Jan has spina bifida. In the first few weeks of development in utero, cells form a tube that becomes the spinal cord and vertebral column. In Jan's case, this tube failed to close completely at the base of her neck. That opening was surgically closed early in her life, but the altered function of her nervous system persisted and has impacted the function of her muscles. Some muscles are more active (spastic) than typical, while others are weak. It took Jan longer to develop basic movement abilities than it does for most children. She didn't walk until she was 5 years old, and that was with the help of leg braces. Eventually, she learned to walk without them.
A Nurturing Environment
Katharina Tribe was 50 when she came into contact with the Feldenkrais Method in 1991. She could hardly walk. She had scoliosis since childhood and her spine was all worn off on the right side from a lifetime of compensation. She started the training the following year. A chiropractor said that people with her sort of back usually came into the office on all fours! Katharina says, "No one would even guess it now-- I am my own walking miracle!"